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Bruins players, Claude Julien take time on off day to visit Newtown

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

More NHL: Scores | Standings | Odds | Fight-O-Meter | League Leaders | Rumors

The Boston Bruins took advantage of a little time off on Presidents Day and went to Newtown, Conn., to spend time with those affected by the tragic shooting.

A group of players and coach Claude Julien made the trip just to spend time with the families and people of the town, to show their support. They organized activities, like street hockey in the town's youth academy.

As Caryn Switaj wrote in this fantastic piece on the Bruins' website (which I recommend you visit, so I'll link to it twice), "the day wasn't about the Bruins."

Switaj continued:

It was about the families; it was about bringing happiness and laughter to the children buzzing around the gym at the Newtown Youth Academy. It was about running up and down the street hockey court for hours, joining in a quick game of basketball between street hockey sessions, taking a minute to talk to a child and give him or her a high five, a smile, a hug, a fist bump after a goal.

The sadness and grief came through - as when listening to a parent tell about his son's fallen friend; or walking the halls of the Newtown town hall, with posters, teddy bears and well wishes lining tables and walls, and letters from all around the world overflowing from boxes.

Those moments were way beyond words.

But the overwhelming joy throughout the day from the families in attendance was about being in the moment, in Newtown, with their closest friends, their children, and a hockey team from New England that just wanted to come make them happy.

You often hear "putting smiles on kids' faces" as the importance of offering support to the community, but that was - truly - at the core of the visit.

What a day. Teams all across the NHL and pro sports commit to community appearances all the time, more often than many people realize. But it doesn't diminish how meaningful it is, especially following tragedies such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. It's terrific to see the team spending some of its free time brightening other people's days.

Let's put it this way -- there aren't better ways to spend an afternoon off; nothing will be quite as rewarding.

And before you go callously thinking that the players were just doing what they were told, they seemed genuinely excited. One of the many great things about Twitter is that it shows a more honest/real side to players. For those who actually use their accounts personally, they aren't always saying the right things, the PR statements, etc. With that in mind, here are tweets from Andrew Ference and Tyler Seguin both before and from the visit.

In total, the Bruins group on hand was Seguin, Ference, Julien, Dougie Hamilton, Rich Peverley, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille and Chris Bourque. That doesn't include the cheerleaders and the mascot.

After playing street hockey and having a meet-and-greet with all the fans who showed up -- oh, and the Stanley Cup was on hand as well; not a bad guest -- the players headed over to the high school and played with the school's hockey team for a bit. I suppose that covered off-day conditioning, especially with Julien around.

The cool part about that is that it wasn't the Bruins giving to the high schoolers, although I'm sure they did, but the high schoolers gave the Bruins players their own Newtown jerseys to wear.

And wear them they did.

The Bruins pose in their Newtown sweaters. (@NHLBruins Instagram)

I just wanted to say bravo to the Bruins. And bravo to every NHL team for all the work they do that isn't necessarily noticed.

You often hear that hockey has the best people in it, and you will get zero argument from me.

See more from the Bruins' visit to Newtown from CBS Boston.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @StubitsCBS on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube account and like us on Facebook.

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